Friday, July 10, 2009

Russian Filigree with Argentium Sterling Silver

Here are a couple of examples of some simple Russian Filigree I did using Argentium Sterling Silver. I did them about a year ago and there still bright and shiny without having to polish them again. The high tarnish resistance is great for hard to polish work like this!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Argentium® Tips for new users

If you are new to Argentium® Sterling, here are some things that I have noted while working with Argentium® Sterling:

1. Argentium® Sterling does not react in the same manor as regular Sterling Silver. It is much easier to not compare it to regular Sterling and just think of it as a completely different alloy.

2. Argentium® loves an oxygenated environment. This is important to remember when considering your working surfaces and fluxes (if you choose to use flux). Remember in the case of Argentium®, the flux is only used to help the solder flow, not to protect it from oxygen. I like to use Rio Grande’s My-T-Flux®. Using a thick paste type flux just makes a mess and keeps the oxygen away from the Argentium®. When it comes to the working surface, there have been reports of possible problems when using charcoal blocks. Charcoal blocks seem to starve the Argentium® of oxygen.

3. Argentium® seems to want to “slump” at high temperatures. It may be necessary to support your work while heating it.

4. Argentium® is a very “white” metal. The color seems to be quite rich and there is a definite difference in color between regular Sterling Silver and Argentium® Sterling Silver.

5. If your Argentium® is getting to the bright orange hot stage when heating, it’s too hot.

6. Care must be taken when the Argentium® is very hot. If you try to move it when it’s even got a slight glow, you run the risk of breaking it. When the Argentium® is very hot, like when you fuse it, it seems to go into a state that is somewhere between solid and liquid. The best way I can think to describe it, is similar to what slush is like in the snow. If you try to move your piece (or press down on it) in this state, it will break apart.

7. I love to fuse with Argentium®. Granules, wire, and sheet all seem to fuse with ease. I think part of it has to do with the way Argentium® likes to “slump”. I have also had good success fusing fine silver to Argentium®. When fused, the joint seems to be very strong. The great thing about fusing is you can make a piece quite rapidly. Start with the largest pieces and work your way down to the smallest. There seems to be no need to pickle in between steps.

8. One of the things I love most about Argentium® Sterling Silver is the ability to “super anneal” it. If you quench the Argentium® a little early, it becomes super malleable. Caution! If you quench too early, it will stress fracture. It takes a little practice, but if you do it, the Argentium® is almost like working with lead.

9. When hammering or working the Argentium® in another way, it seems to be able to go longer between annealings than does regular Sterling Silver. However, go too long and it will crumble without warning.

10. Argentium® can become quite hard after heat hardening. The great thing is, that this can be done at quite low temperatures; 500-550 degrees Fahrenheit. Put it in a toaster oven at that temperature for about an hour, let it cool to room temperature, and you should see a considerable difference in the hardening of the alloy. The thicker the metal, the easier it will be to tell a difference.

11. When casting with Argentium®, if you let the flask cool to room temperature after casting and then remove the piece from the investment, you will find the alloy to be quite hard.

These are just a few of the things I’ve noted when working with Argentium® Sterling. Your results may vary depending on your working conditions. I’m sure I’ve missed some of the other unique characteristics of Argentium® Sterling Silver and since the alloy is still relatively new, I’m sure there is still a lot to learn in the future.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Argentium® Sterling Silver 970 now available!

That's right AS970 is now available through G&S Metals! The 97% silver casting grain is being sold as "Argentium Silver Casting Grain(tm)". The following link will take you directly to the page that will tell you all about this wonderful new alloy.
If you love the look of fine silver, I think your going to love the look and durability of AS970.
At the time I checked the price of the casting grain it was the same price as fine silver casing grain.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Casting Argentium® Sterling Silver 970 using a torch

Casting with AS 970 is almost identical to casting with AS 925. Here is what I used.

The torch I use is a BernzOmatic® Jet Torch Kit (JTH7). Using this torch with MAPP gas, produces a flame that, at least for me, is perfect for casting with Argentium® Sterling Silver.

The centrifuge I use is a simple to use Neycraft® Centrifugal Caster.
After calculating the amount of casting grain needed. The wax pattern was dipped in a debubblizer and allowed to dry. Investment was then added to the flask, the air was vibrated out, and the flask was allowed to cure. The next day, the flask was burned out in a kiln.

The centrifuge is wound up and prepared for the cast. The burned out flask was placed directly from the kiln into the centrifuge. At this point it is important to preheat the crucible to red hot before adding the casting grain. Add the casting grain and a pinch of Borax. Heat the casting grain as quickly as possible being careful to hold the flame in a manor that prevents air from getting to the alloy as much as possible. I like to heat the casting grain only enough to make sure it is fluid. Heating the alloy any longer or hotter may produce inferior results. Once the alloy is fluid, release the centrifuge immediately.

After the casting is complete, I like to allow the flask to air cool completely before removing the cast from the flask. This will produce a very hard cast and will eliminate the risk of cooling the alloy too quickly which may cause it to crack.

After removing the cast from the flask, I like to clean it off with water and a tooth brush. The cast has a light brown coating on it that easily comes of with a tooth brush. Note how clean and bright the Argentium® Sterling Silver 970 cast is compared to regular sterling silver. WOW. If you look carefully at the photo of the AS 970 you can see the light brown coating in the small crevices of the cast. Now the cast is ready to pickle.

After pickling, the cast is ready to finish. I chose to add hammer marks to this band before finishing. The ring when completed had a beautiful deep luster that unfortunately I was unable to capture in my photographs.

I cast an identical regular sterling silver ring to use as a comparison. Below is a picture of the two rings side-by-side. If you were to look at the two rings separately, you probably would not notice any real differences between the two rings, but put them together and it’s easy to tell the difference. The AS 970 ring had a much deeper luster than the regular sterling silver. In very bright light, the regular sterling silver ring had a slight yellowish tint when compared to the Argentium® Sterling Silver 970.

After I made the two identical rings, I decided to do a durability test on the two rings to see how they would look after being worn on the same finger for one month. Only days after I started wearing the rings, the regular sterling silver ring started showing a slight gray tint and was not holding its shine nearly as well as the Argentium® Sterling Silver 970. The high points on the hammer marks were much more scuffed and the dents and dings from wear were much deeper on the regular sterling silver.

At the end of the month long test period, there was quite a dramatic difference in the two rings. The two rings were not cleaned or polished during the testing period. Both rings had some deep scratches, but the regular sterling ring had many more deep scratches than the AS 970. The color was still deeper and brighter on the Argentium® Sterling Silver 970 ring. The AS 970 ring still looked nearly new. The hammer marks on the regular sterling silver ring are nearly worn off in some areas. There was no noticeable wear on the hammer marks on the AS 970 ring.

It was a little surprising to see the number of people that commented on how beautiful the AS 970 ring is.

Friday, June 02, 2006

If you like fine silver, you’re going to love Argentium® Sterling 970

What is Argentium® Sterling Silver 970?To help clarify what AS 970 is, here are a couple of simple definitions to help describe the differences:

Fine Silver: More than 999/1,000 pure silver (99.9% pure silver). Fine silver is considered by many to be too soft for fabrication and use in many forms of jewelry.

Sterling Silver: An alloy of fine silver (92.5%) and other metals, usually copper (7.5%). US law states that all objects marked "sterling," "925" or "925/1000" must contain no less than 92.5% fine silver.

Argentium® Sterling Silver 925: Argentium® Sterling Silver 925 contains at least 92.5% fine silver, but replaces a small amount of the copper that is usually the other 7.5% with germanium.

Argentium® Sterling Silver 970: Argentium® Sterling Silver 970 is like Argentium® Sterling Silver 925 except that it contains at least 97% fine silver.

Why use Argentium® Sterling Silver 970 instead of fine silver?
1. It also improves the tarnish resistance even further than AS 925.

2. Those who have trouble wearing regular sterling silver jewelry should have little or no trouble wearing AS 970 because of it's low copper content.

3. It‘s much harder! AS 970 can be precipitation hardened in the same manor that you would harden Argentium® Sterling 925.

How hard is it?
AS 970 will precipitation harden to the same hardness as AS 925 (approximately 120HV). After precipitation hardening AS 970 or AS 925, you should notice quite a difference, depending on the thickness of the metal, as I did when I precipitation hardened an adjustable ring .

To help get a better understanding as to how hard it is, please click on the following link .

Where can you get it? As far as I know the only place to get it at this time is Stern-Leach.

How does it cast?
More to come soon!